Winter Park restaurants encouraged to join ‘Breathe Free’ and ban smoking on outdoor patios as Winter Park becomes first city in Central Florida to ask restaurants to voluntarily prohibit patio smoking.

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Leaders from Winter Park’s health and business communities are excited to announce the launch of “Breathe Free Winter Park,” an initiative aimed at voluntarily banning smoking — inside and out — of restaurants in the city.

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While smoking isn’t permitted inside Florida eateries, diners can smoke at restaurant patios. Secondhand smoke is not only bothersome, but it can trigger asthma attacks, migraines and sinus issues.

Already, more than 20 restaurants have joined Breathe Free, including Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen, 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Outback Steakhouse, Bosphorous and others. Breathe Free organizers hope these model restaurants — and residents who advocate smoke-free dining — will encourage other eateries throughout Winter Park and all of Central Florida to go smoke-free.

Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary
Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary

“Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen is pleased to participate in Breathe Free Winter Park,” said Jonathan Smiga, CEO of
Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen. “We think our guests appreciate a clean and healthy environment in which to enjoy our specialty coffees and espresso drinks — along with our local, farm-to-table cuisine. Breathe Free Winter Park is a breath of fresh air.”

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Breathe Free is an initiative of Healthy Central Florida (HCF), a community-based partnership founded by Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation. HCF partnered with the American Lung Association, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, Rollins College and others to take one more step on the road to becoming the healthiest community in the nation — the goal of Healthy Central Florida. With the launch of Breathe Free, Winter Park becomes the first city in Central Florida to ask all restaurants to fully ban smoking on their property.

Research shows only 10 percent of Winter Park residents smoke, and fewer than 8 percent smoke daily. That means restaurants are catering to a small group by allowing smoking on their patios.

“We want to stress that this program is entirely voluntary,” said Jill Hamilton Buss, executive director of Healthy Central Florida. “We’re simply making restaurant owners/managers aware of how few people actually smoke, and helping them go smoke-free if they choose to do so. And, we’re offering full support for the transition if they sign on, including providing a toolkit, signage, advertising and promotion and even staff training.”

Individuals, not just restaurants, also have a role to play.

Executive Chef Camilo Velasco of Barnie's CoffeeKitchen
Executive Chef Camilo Velasco of Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen

“Anyone who prefers a smoke-free patio is encouraged to speak up and let restaurant owners/managers know they would prefer to dine smoke free,” added Hamilton Buss. “If they don’t hear from you, they don’t know.”

For a full list of restaurants that already signed up for Breathe Free and to learn more about Health Central Florida, visit healthycentralflorida.org.

Restaurant managers and owners who are interested in joining Breathe Free can contact Hamilton Buss at
jhamiltonbuss@healthycf.org or 407-644-2300.

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Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen CEO Jonathon Smiga speaks on the importance of Breathe Free SONY DSC